What is poi?
Poi is a physical object used for spinning. It has a specific look and structure – it is a ball tied to a rope. The ball is for weight and the rope is for holding the prop. The poi can be made of different materials, depending on what they are used for (Traditional Maori dance, fire performance, led performance, day time performance). Depends of the purpose of using poi and also the performer, there is different weight and length of the tool.
The roots of the poi culture comes from New Zealand and the Maori people. This is their traditional dance, which is still practiced today. The spinning of the poi is accompanied by music, songs and dances that have choreography itself. A performance includes also storytelling and the singing is in conjunction with the choreography routines. In Maroi culture the poi performance is usually practiced by woman. Some legends indicate that it was first used by man to develop wrist flexibility and hands coordination, so they can be better in using weapons, but the resent academic study has found no evidence to confirm this story.
The poi spinning in the modern times has become a flow culture with worldwide audience. The spinning is more complex and has variety of tricks that can be used in the performance. Poi spinning can be as much as a hobby, but also can be built as professional performance skills. Fire shows are very common to be seen in a festival as Burning Man or European Juggling Convention. More and more fire shows are performed also in private events as Weddings or Birthday Parties.
Poi spinning styles
The classical poi spinning uses movements in a straight plane, which are directed by the hands and draw symmetrical figures in the air. There are two directions in which each hand can spin and there are two types of tempo/timing/rhythm in which each hand can rotate. The combination of direction, timing and place of the hands determines the type of the movement.
These are the different classes of movements:
Two – directions
3 beat weave kinds of tricks
Butterfly kinds of tricks
Juggling style poi
Poi juggling is a newer movement in the poi spinning, which is based on the classical rotation, but also includes throwing the pois in the air. This creates an additional illusion in the audience. Also, in order to be able to perform juggling with a poi, it is necessary for the handle of the poi, where the hand catches it, to be more special. The handle need to be from poi knobs, which are small balls to keep the chain straight as it flies in the air. This makes the handle easier to catch.
The partner poi is a style of spinning poi that includes two or more people for one trick with poi. Their spinning together looks like “dancing with partner”, but with pois. It is more complicated as coordination, because in addition to the fact that first it is necessary to be able to coordinate one’s own movements individually, it is necessary to coordinate with another individual. Usually, people who start practicing partner poi initially practice the classical poi spinning until they feel confident in their own movements before starting to collaborate with others.
Wrap style poi
Spinning a poi of this style is the most unpopular. It is usually performed with luminous pois in the form of glow sticks and on electronic music. Poi wraping is a rapid movement with wraps/hits on the body, which dramatically change the direction of rotation of the poi and create an even greater illusion of speed. Slips on the body or orbitals are also common tricks. It is recommended to do in complete darkness to emphasize the effect of speed and light.
Kinds of poi
Practice poi / sock poi
In order to learn the tricks, every spinner needs to have practice poi. It can be made by you or it can be bought. To practice with sock poi is important, because of many reasons. To build the coordination of every and each trick it takes time. With the sock poi if you hit yourself it’s much less painful and dangerous, because its more soft. The fire poi it’s getting dirty with soot after the first burn and practicing with sock poi is also less messy.
In order to be used with fire, the poi need to has to be made of specific components. The fire head is made of materials that doesn’t burn itself (Kevla r or Ceramic rope) and instead of rope, the head is attached with a chain.
Snake poi or also known as a long poi is the same as the fire poi, but with longer “as snake” hire head. Usually the fire head is made of rope. With this kind of poi the performer can make more basic poi tricks, but it is much more impressive for the audience, because of the much more fire on the fire prop. The snake poi is more dangerous than the fire poi, because it has more fire and needs to be paid more attention on safety.
Glow / Led poi
The glowing poi is a great option for spinning without the need of safety and preparations as the fire poi. It is also great for spinning indoors and is very suitable for beginners who want to test their movements in the dark but are not ready to light a fire.
Flag poi and Wind poi
For spinning during the day and for shows that are during the day, flag pois and wind pois are a very good option. They have weight at the front end and their “tail” is like the fire flame. Those pois usually has different colors and that’s can make visual illusion for the audience. The flag and wind pois are very beginner friendly and they are great prop for the summer.
Health benefits of poi
The poi spinning has a great effect on the human coordination system. Improves concentration and develops the motor functions of the body. In people engaged in spinning, who then begin to use their hands for other activities, there is much faster progress and coordination. Spinning is useful for people of all ages!
If you are new to flow arts, welcome to our flow family!
I hope you have fun and may the flow be with you!